Kitchen Before and After

Our old kitchen was the worst. It made me super sad when we walked in and saw it. It was old, ugly, and worst of all, inefficiently laid out. The tile, ugh, the tile was hideous! It had only one side of cabinets that could be used along the left side (with the ugliest appliances and handles/pulls), and then on the right side, well, it made no sense.

the old kitchen from the listing photos

the view of the left side

the old kitchen (right side view) from the listing photos

the view on the right side

the back right side of the kitchen

the back right corner

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another view of the left side

You can see on the right side the accordion doors which led to…wire shelving and a stackable washer/dryer! It was awful. No room for storage, yet this monstrosity of a closet took up nearly half of the right side of the kitchen.

And the back corner…omg, the back corner made no sense. The only thing we thought it was used for was a breakfast nook. However, if you sat on one side, if you stood, you’d knock yourself out on the cabinets above. If you sat on the other side, you were basically in the oven. And that light fixture was just a beaut.

I could not wait to tear this motha out.

The first thing I wanted gone was the stupid closet. The original idea was to get rid of the entire right side to make room for nearly wall-to-fridge cabinets. But when we tore out the back wall of the closet, looky what we found.

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This random wall in the kitchen had all our electrical wiring, so we couldn’t get rid of it. Yay!

Yeah, read that caption again. ALL THE ELECTRICAL WIRING. WHO DOES THIS??!?!?! This was the very first thing we demo-ed in the house, and boom, immediate huge problem. And you can see in the very back, the amazing wallpaper we uncovered when we took down the upper cabinets. Soooooo pretty…

This kitchen was just awful. But we obviously couldn’t replace everything in it because we’re not millionares. So the first decision was to keep the existing cabinets on the left side. They are in decent shape, and with some new paint and hardware, they would look amazing. We also had to keep the closet for the most part. We had to pay our contractors to put that wall back up, but we did get to demo the wall between the washer/dryer and fridge.

The open space above the closet also had to stay. This townhouse design is so odd. But we did get to get rid of most of the upper part to give us more room for larger cabinetry.

Word of advice: if you’re going to demo, make sure you have all the right tools.

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This is after we ripped everything out, including the backsplash that literally dissolved the sheetrock behind it (which in this picture, was repaired). There were gaping holes everywhere, and when we tried to remove the countertop, we found we couldn’t remove it from around the outlets without a saw (and when I tried, I got myself a little shock that reminded me why getting electrocuted is frowned upon).

Another word of advice: if you’re going to paint cabinetry yourself, do it while you live in the house. Or just hire someone.

Using Rustoleum DIY paint kits for the upper and lower cabinets, I thought this would be an easy enough project. Take the doors down, clean them, remove the gloss coating, paint, and finish. Easy, right?

It wasn’t.

IT TOOK FOREVER AND MY SANITY.

You have to wait at least 3 hours between coats. The upper cabinets required 6 coats (and even then they looked like shit). We didn’t live in the house at the time, so I had to go during lunch breaks and after work to apply coats. The lower cabinets only needed the recommended 2 coats so that worked out great. But those uppers killed me.

I tried to be green and got an environmentally-friendly paint stripper to remove the gloss off the old cabinets. It didn’t work. Just use the super corrosive stuff and it’ll be fine (but your lungs won’t be).

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I finally had to ask my designer for another paint brand because I just couldn’t use the kit paint for yet a 7th coat on the uppers. She recommended Valspar and dammit, it was the winner from the start. Only one coat and it was beautifully hiding all the stuff the 6 coats of the other paint couldn’t do. And don’t forget, you have to do not only the front of the doors, but the backs. And in between the doors. And around the cabinets. And the toe kicks. Which required more time.

All in all, painting these cabinets took almost 2 weeks. Never. Again.

Obviously, we had the contractors do a new backsplash, countertops, and flooring. After living in my old apartment for 3 years, I had come to hate granite countertops. It stained like whoa, and once it got a wet spot, forget it, it’s never coming out. I have no time or patience for high maintenance stuff, so when we found quartz, I was done. Yes, it’s more expensive, but not having to reseal it every year, the durability, and how pretty it is…MORE than worth it.

The right side of the kitchen is the biggest transformation. After patching up the hole we made, we decided to use the space next to the fridge for actual, useable cabinetry.

 

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redoing the wall we tore down and new flooring

Home Depot actually still had the same stock cabinets that matched our cabinets from 1994 so we were able to fill out that previously oddly used back right corner with more storage and a space for a wine fridge we received as a wedding gift.

More storage, more countertop, pantry space, and a completely hidden new, stackable washer and dryer? The right side of the kitchen, which used to be horrible, was now a dream.

 

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new cabinets in the back corner

We did have to get the new cabinets custom made (and I of course had to paint them again in order to save money) but the result below is just too gorgeous.

We unfortunately couldn’t move any of the electrical stuff into the garage (like the washer and dryer, water heater, and AC unit) because of flood zone requirements, so that does take up space I’d like to see freed up on the main living floor. But all in all, for our first home and first renovations, we are in love with our space.

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custom cabinets installed with new fridge

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All of the appliances we got from a Sears scratch and dent outlet for a killer price. I have always wanted a gas range, and have only been able to use one in my first townhouse with my roomie Lyndsay in grad school. We were ready to price out how much it was going to be to convert the old electric stove to gas when lo and behold, behind the old oven, A GAS HOOKUP!

Culinary dreams do come true y’all.

The only real design decision we made here for the kitchen was the two-toned cabinets in white and gray and the countertop. Everything else stemmed from that. Our designer picked out the backsplash tiles and cabinet pulls. There are literally millions of choices out there, and by this point, my brain couldn’t handle any more decisions. She picked, we liked, end of story.

So here it is, the final kitchen reveal. A space that can fit people to mingle, space for EVERYTHING, and yet, clean, modern, and up to date.

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walls painted, towels hung, liveable kitchen

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insert behind the sink

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this backsplash and countertop!

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back right corner

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custom cabinets

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pantry custom cabinet! SO MUCH SPACE

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Totally hidden washer and dryer

Just for recollection sake, before and afters.

So that’s the kitchen, a space that has seen us sweat, bleed, receive a light shock therapy, cry, and love. It’s a space that’s so us and it makes me happy to cook there every time I walk in. That’s exactly what kitchens should be like, right?

Next up, the rest of the house, and no more renovations to come.

♥, VB

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Master Bathroom Before & After

This room is still one of my favorites in the house, probably because other than the kitchen, it’s the most different from its original. In case you missed it the first time, this is what it looked like in the original listing photos.

master bathroom from listing photos

this vanity….yuck

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glass blocks really are a modern touch, don’t you think?

view of master bathroom and closet from listing photos

the view of the closet and bathroom in the master

So really, the same issues present in the guest bathroom were here too. The countertop was massive, yes, but underneath, no real way to store anything without buying a million Container Store boxes and organizing thingys (which isn’t the worst thing in the world to do, but I wanted to avoid that as much as possible). I also didn’t want our countertop to be FULL of stuff because we had no other place to put things. Too cluttered.

The floors again. Ugh, I hate these tiles so much. The big builder mirror and the soffit fluorescent light again. I mean, HONESTLY, WHO PUTS FLUORESCENT LIGHTS IN A BATHROOM?!?!?

But the previous owners, I guess in an effort to update something in the house (the only thing updated in the house since 1994), did change the shower, so this is what we saw when we actually toured the house.

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slate tiles in the shower pre-purchase (cabinet doors and countertop removed post-purchase)

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We removed everything you see here. EVERYTHING. LOOK AT THAT EFFING LIGHT.

And just like before, we started demoing things before I took real “before” photos. Oops.

The tiles in the shower look nice, yes, however upon entering this shower, it was immediately clear that in order to wash one’s hair, it was one arm or the other. Both arms could not be up at the same time or else you’d be outside of the shower. So yea, not functional at all.

Thankfully these tiles were the EASIEST to take off because they had just been put in. We felt a little bad since they had just renovated it, but it probably would’ve been wiser to leave it alone to begin with.

Also you see on the right side of the shower, that little wall that extends halfway on the side of the countertop? I hated this wall. It was dumb, made no sense, and was one of the first things to be torn down. We discovered about a foot of empty space behind that wall, so the major change we made here was to make it a double shower.

How’s that for romance?

Obviously, everything else went too.

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master bath gutted

Already, staring at the empty, completely gutted master bathroom is calming my nerves from the before pictures.

See all the metal studs? This has been very annoying. Apparently, when the house was constructed, only the external walls received wood studs; internal walls are metal. This has driven me insane as I hit them time and time again trying to install things or even just hang a picture. And this is why we hired a professional to mount our TVs.

Again, we bought the double vanity and countertop/sinks from Ikea and constructed it ourselves. We had plans to have two high storage cabinets on either side plus a huge mirror cabinet in the middle. However, we didn’t really measure correctly, and after I assembled this massive cabinet, turns out, it didn’t fit. Never to fear, we returned it to Ikea and bought a $15 mirror instead.

(Yes, you can return fully-assembled items to Ikea. And it was totally worth it since we couldn’t put it anywhere else realistically and damn, it wasn’t a cheap piece.)

After the whole re-plumbing issue was resolved, onward we went with the renovation. These were the pieces we selected for the overall look, including the kitchen and both bathrooms.

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So pretty and classic, right? We chose to do the exact same subway tiles in both bathrooms, but in the master, floor to ceiling! Same dark grout, because it’s just a good look. Also, the same wood-grain tile tied the entire look together.

More photos during the reconstruction and beautifying phase:

shower floor, yes please!

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Yes, this bathroom was also a dual paint job. The original teal really set Timmy off in a bad way, and while I didn’t mind it, I’m glad now we changed it to a much more neutral color. So much more calm and relaxing in here now.

Timmy and I must have gone back and forth a hundred times about shower door vs. shower curtain. A shower door here was really expensive and because we extended the shower, had to be custom-made since our measurements weren’t stock sizes. A shower curtain was obviously inexpensive but unfortunately REALLY unrealistic. Looking at these pictures, I don’t even know why we had that discussion in the first place. There’s no way we could’ve gotten away with just a curtain.

When we finally did order the shower doors, we had already moved in and had to wait a while for them to be installed. They delivered them after the renovations were done, and then the installers suffered an injury. So for 2 weeks, we had these MASSIVE shower doors taking up major space in our master bedroom that were so heavy, they just had to stay where they had been delivered.

That was fun.

Also, I hope you notice the covered floors in the last picture. This was something we didn’t do with the wood floors in the main spaces at the very beginning to protect them and it has really been a frustrating point for me every time I come home.

Back story: We donated all of our old appliances (except for the old fridge, which we moved to the garage) to Habitat for Humanity. Timmy was there for this exchange, and unfortunately, it was terrible! Not only did they break the wood plank at the top of the stairs in half, they also managed to scratch the SHIT out of 3 main spots in our living room. And I mean, nearly GAUGED out the floor. This was before we even got really started on the renovations!

It drives me crazy to see those spots. I’m not done trying to fix them, but I think at some point, the floors will just have to be sanded and restained to get rid of them. Lesson learned.

I really can’t explain how much I love this bathroom now. It has PLENTY of storage space (and I mean plenty!), and best of all, nearly everything is hidden from view. It makes everything cleaner and so much more relaxing since clutter is not visible. We chose the same waterfall faucet as the guest, and again, went with chrome for the sinks and brushed nickel for the showers.

And without further delay, here’s what our master bathroom looks like!

just before the shower doors and right-hand side shower fixture were installed

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shower doors installed!

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greatest storage and custom light fixture ever!

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another unique touch from our designer Meg! And the framed picture (totally her doing) really encapsulates the feeling of being done with renovations (and weddings)

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love this custom shelf!

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these shower doors are just beautiful

Our bathroom now rules. It’s 100% our style and can totally appeal to another buyer whenever we decide to sell. Extending this to a double shower was a stroke of genius (if I don’t say so myself), and it’s just an excellent space in general.

Again BIG PROPS to our designer Meg at ME Style Designs for helping us through this renovation in particular. All the plumbing issues, the color changes, the timeline, the ordering and re-ordering of parts and tiles and installations, there’s NO WAY I could’ve handled this. I had no idea about 1/2 the things involved with this type of renovation, and without her assistance, ideas, and patience, this would’ve been a complete disaster.

Next time, prepare yourself for the reveal of the kitchen, maybe our favorite space in the entire house!

♥, VB

Guest Bathroom Reno

So let’s start at the front of the house shall we? I said I’d share our before and afters, so let’s get the guest bathroom out of the way first. Not because it’s not interesting, but because our renovations in the other rooms are much more captivating.

Before, our guest bathroom looked like this:

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We removed everything except the toilet, which got a gooooood scrubbing.

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Ok so I obviously started demolishing this room before we got any real true before pictures. My bad. I have little patience and since I’m not getting paid to blog, I don’t remember these things until it’s too late.

But as you can tell it was ugly. We had already removed it before this picture was taken, but there was a sink/countertop that extended over the toilet uselessly because there was barely any space to put anything on the counter over the toilet. You can see in the first picture there was this drop-down soffit fluorescent light fixture that was heinous. It seriously took up like 2.5 feet of the ceiling height (there was also one in the master, unfortunately). Then there were those 4×4 in. square tiles in the shower with a really shallow tub. The laminated particle board for the sink cabinet, and no real place for storage. The handicap railing in the shower. The one long builder mirror and hideous square floor tiles that looked like the color beige threw up everywhere (including our kitchen, master bathroom, and stairs).

In short, this bathroom was nasty.

I had a Pinterest board going with our designer, Meg Brannigan of ME Style Designs. We decided on items that had a lot of function but had classic yet updated looks, enough so that when it comes time for us to sell our house, the retirees/snowbirds who love this area will love the design enough to consider this house turn-key. Always gotta think ahead.

First we tore it down to the studs, which is much harder than it sounds.

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Parts of the wall where we were trying to take just the tile down off the shower crumbled underneath, so even though we weren’t trying to take it down to the studs, we really didn’t have another option. Also, the tile jackhammer (even the small one) is so incredibly heavy; make sure you have a protein shake on hand or something to keep your energy level up!

I left the tile removal in general up to Timmy. It was just too difficult for me to operate either the small or big jack because of their weight and the angle that I had to stand which killed my back. A big shout-out to Timmy on these jobs!

I was able to take down that mirror with one pry since it was only being held up by those black adhesive splotches you see on the wall. I almost killed myself trying to hold onto it so that it wouldn’t break while Timmy raced in to help me with it. I was absolutely not expecting that, so when it slid down in one piece rapidly, all I was thinking was “PLEASE DON’T SHATTER PLEASE DON’T SHATTER PLEASE DON’T SHATTER.”

Once everything was exposed, we realized we had a major issue with our plumbing. Our type of plumbing was considered illegal (but not at the time it was put in the house). We could choose to leave it and then have a major issue once the walls were closed up somewhere down the line and ruin all our renovations or just replace all the plumbing up front. It was an expense we hadn’t budgeted for, but considering how much more we were risking going forward with the old (and the fact that the plumbing hadn’t been used in years at this place), we bit the bullet and replaced everything.

Which set us even further back when the rough plumbing was inspected and approved but the final wasn’t. So odd how inspectors work.

We also had a major paint issue crop up that was the basis of many many arguments Timmy and I had during this process. At the beginning of the design stage, Meg and I met to discuss colors and such. She had the biggest color swatch collection I have ever seen and told me to go through it and select colors I liked. I think I chose like 46 colors.

I tend to go for big sections of neutrals and pops of colors everywhere. However, I was so overwhelmed with everything else going on that I told her to go ahead and select the colors for the bathrooms. She decided on a bright yellow for the guest and a bright teal for the master. Neither of these options bothered me massively, but since paint can be difficult to envision unless it’s all up, I went ahead and painted both rooms so Timmy could get the whole look.

Timmy was not happy. And Timmy thought I had decided paint colors without him, which made him angrier.

Needless to say, this was not the only stupid, worthless argument we got into during this past year. But it was definitely a sticking point. So back we went to the drawing board and Meg selected a much more neutral, gray/beige color.

We repainted, and are very happy with the color now. So let us never discuss the process of selecting the color again!

Another issue I had was with the original tub. I love baths. I know, some people think they’re super wasteful but they are me-time. They help my back pain and duh, they’re great for pure relaxation. The problem is everywhere I’ve lived, I can only get EITHER my boobs OR my knees underwater. It’s been a life mission to get what I call a “knees-and-boobs” tub; this way, all of myself is underwater at the same time. Ladies, I know you feel me.

The rest of the design choices came easily. I love a clean white subway tile with dark grout. Timmy wanted a wood-grain tile for the floor. And boom we got it all.

Here’s the guest midway:

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love this subway tile

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classic lines for days!

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knees-and-boobs tub!

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laying down the floor

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our final floor tile

The floor tile is the same now in the 2 bathrooms and kitchen. Eventually we will redo our stairs to match this tile, but since it wasn’t a priority, we’ll do it sometime in the future.

Tiling the shower and floors were originally on our DIY list. It looks hella easy on HGTV, right? But after looking at the finished product and the fact that our contractors only took 3 days to complete the showers and floors, we’ve since thanked our lucky stars we didn’t try to take this on. One, it would’ve taken us 10x as long to do it correctly, and look at the lines here! We would’ve sucked at it, let’s just be honest with ourselves.

We selected all our vanities from Ikea because the prices just couldn’t be beat. We selected based on cost, style, and ability to appeal to other buyers. Timmy and I built all of the vanity pieces and our contractors installed them. We chose this one for the guest.

We did run into a little issue with the sink drain from the Ikea countertop/sink in that it was chrome but our other fixtures were going to be brushed nickel. Since the guest bathroom is much smaller than the master, it was going to be obvious the differences in finishes since you could see them all quickly. So we switched to all chrome in the guest, yet in our master, the sink fixture finishes are chrome, and the shower fixtures are brushed nickel.

Again, another design element that no one thinks of! I would’ve never thought about that in a million years, so thanks to our contractors for noticing this!

Our designer created some of the other pieces and found similar ones to complete the industrial/vintage/contemporary look, like our light fixture, towel bar, and toilet paper holder. All in all, the look is very us but I think could appeal to anyone else as well.

So without further ado, here’s the finished look!

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the view from the stairs

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a peek inside

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towel colors just pop!

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Timmy and I have said, since our first place together, that the secret to keeping our relationship afloat is having 2 bathrooms. Looking back, maybe sharing 1 bathroom in my apartment all last year is really what made our lives so difficult all that time.

We love our bathrooms, in particular the mirror and light fixture in this one. It’s so unique and bright, but still feels so homey at the same time. It’s functional (knees and boobs!) yet feels like a hotel bathroom with some of the touches, like the waterfall  faucet and showerhead.

A little PSA, if you can, hire a designer. We couldn’t have survived renovating this house without Meg. She led the way, did more couples counseling than she probably bargained for, and made all the difference.

Up next, the master bathroom!

♥, VB